Yard''s Miles - Part 15
Yard''s Miles - Part 15
Back again to my usual spot at Heathrow Terminal 5 for my flight to Vienna for some shows with Axel Swingenberger, Ben Waters, Dave Green and Charlie Watts, also known as the ''ABC&D of Boogie''. Time for a cuppa with the boys before heading into the unknown.
Arriving in Vienna we are transported to our hotel which I can only describe as plush with gorgeous wood panelling and chandeliers. Austria has always had something close to my heart; apple strudel, food of the Gods!
Waiter service as in most European countries (apart from the UK) is impeccable, so to keep them in tip top shape my first coffee and strudel is put to the test!
We have four shows here spread over a week. We have three in Vienna and one in Linz which is a few hours drive away. A local friend of ours allows his 40’s Slingerland Radio King kit to be used for the shows, so we take Charlie’s cymbals, Ludwig Speedking pedals and his stickbag. The shows are a sell out and run smoothly apart from that squeaky pedal!
Two grand pianos, double bass and drums are on stage. Axel and Ben are the two chief exponents of Boogie Woogie piano playing. Dave and Charlie have been friends since they were five years old as neighbours in Wembley. Both followed careers as pro musicians as Dave played for Chris Barber’s Jazz Band for many years. All the band are absolute gents. My highlight of the trip was Charlie bringing us a coffee and strudel at Vienna airport on the way home whilst we watched the bags!
Home for a few days before heading back to the airport ready for the ''Mission from Gadd'' Part One. Well, that was until the ash cloud appeared!
Our UK shows were cancelled as Steve was at home in the US and couldn’t fly to the UK. Despite several attempts at re-routing via Spain and driving over it was decided to cancel the UK section until later. Flights were re-opened so the tour started in Amsterdam. I made it over on the fine Eurostar train service to Brussels to await a connecting train into Amsterdam, jah!
The Netherlands are always so welcoming and friendly as are most European nations. Upon arrival at the American Hotel I called Carl our tour bus driver to liaise for our rendezvous the following morning when we set off for gig number one. The SG kit was on-board ready to go.
Steve, his wife Carol and John DeChristopher from Zildjian arrive from the US laden with luggage, tired but ready to go. Carol was record producer Phil Ramone’s personal assistant in the studio, and knows everything there is to know about the music business and happens to be married to the groove master and nicest drummer there is.
We will be joined with Tina Clarke and Bob Wiczling from Zildjian UK. Bob was drummer with Adam Ant and Bill Nelson before the lure of big bucks got him! The bus coffee machine gets the green light and all is well. Steve’s requirements are simple – coffee, water, fruit and pistachios and he’s happy. The first journey is catching up on any new jokes that we may have. You cannot beat the sound of laughter, simple enough but some find it hard to do.
We arrive in Tilburg where Steve and the Zildjian team stay for a signing session, so I depart with the kit for the venue where I begin to set it up. The local crews are ready with the PA and video screens. Despite offers of help, I attend to this ''huge'' six piece, four cymbal kit myself!!
As Steve’s kit is kept at my place, I get to prep it before it is collected for the tour to give me an easy start on Day One. Soundcheck is set each day for 5.30pm and lasts about 10-15mins at most. We head downstairs for some food after this is complete before the show. Ton Djikman, drummer with Jan Akkerman, is coming tonight. Jan’s band Focus played in Clacton at the St Osyth Teacher Training College in the mid ''70''s and then I saw him at the Marquee Club guesting with Spencer Davis later that year. Ton purchased a Camco kit from me earlier this year. Gabriel Laurens from Remo Europe appeared later in the evening which was ‘andy ‘Arry as he gave me a lift with the gear back onto the bus!
As soon as we are done we head for Hamburg, Germany to Just Drums which is next to Hamburg SV, Kevin Keegan’s old outfit. The building is like a fortress as it was used by Adolf Hitler. The shop is large and upstairs but, luckily they have a lift. The joy of these gigs and touring in general is that you get to meet some lovely, kindhearted people worldwide. Everyone should travel, given the chance, as it breaks down a lot of barriers and frees your mind from prejudices brought about by ignorance and fear. Tomorrow is a day off spent mooching about.
The next stop is Karlsruhe at Rock Shop. This a huge organisation with great facilities. The building has it’s own theatre with a stage,lights and PA for these shows. The huge shop is next door to the warehouse.
We arrive at our hotel set on a hillside for a shower before heading to the venue at Essemusic in town. Steve has interviews conducted on the veranda in the shade, overlooking the town. Upon arrival at the store I am open mouthed as it is the largest store that I have ever seen. The building is approx 150ft x 100ft x 40ft tall, stacked to the gills with so much equipment. Two of the walls of the top floor are stacked with vintage drums that are kept and not for sale. There has to be possibly 1.5 million euros of stock as a guess. The owner is in her mid 30s and despite my desperate pleas refuses my hand in marriage, so it looks like I’ll have to carry on working...
The stage and seating are all set up in the store for 1000 guests. Steve arrives for the Meet and Greet conducted in the store prior to the show followed by soundcheck. We use the bus as a dressing room to watch TV and answer emails.
As Steve takes to the stage the crowd rise to applaud him, there are a sea of happy smiling faces. As he performs you can see friends nudging each other excitedly. After the show is over many fans take pictures of Steve’s kit before I break it down.
Florence is our next stop where we arrive in the early hours and check into our hotel. After handing over our passports to reception we head for our rooms. Italian hotels are beautiful in as much as they are very individual, service is an art form and they retain their own identity.
The clinic is held in a theatre for Play Drums where it appeared that nothing was happening which caused me concern as my only contact in the theatre seemed disinterested, and then it all happened in a moment! Back on the bus we have double drivers for the trip to beautiful Barcelona. It is a fairly long, but stunning, trip through the South of France.
We arrive around midday into a hotel frequented by touring bands on La Ramblas, and I have a picture of my son Nick leaving the same hotel a few weeks earlier with the Placebo tour. Barcelona are playing tonight at the Nou Camp stadium so the city is full of Barcelona shirt wearing fans. We shoot off for dinner at a local restaurant. The following day I leave for the club where the clinic is being held to get ready for sound check. Luckily the sound guy is a Kiwi who lives in Spain so I nailed him as my interpreter if needed, but no need.
Overnight we head to Seville for our day off. It is my first time in town and it is stunning. Upon arrival the road is too narrow for the bus so we drag our luggage 100 yards down a cobbled street to the hotel, and what a stunner it is! The hotel is tastefully decorated and easily the best I have stayed in. Very simple, small, but very stylish with cobbled courtyard dining areas. Ten out of ten to the design team. The last show is tomorrow at the local Polytechnica where it is a sell out. I arrive at the Poly at 3pm to set up whilst Steve and the Zildjian team are at Tam Tam Percussion for the signing session.
We have a special guest tonight as The Shadows legendary drummer Brian Bennett is coming along from his Portugal home. Brian was backstage with us until show time, where Steve was greeted with a standing ovation whilst Brian took a seat to observe from the wings. The crowd was very enthusiastic with a lot of good questions that keep the clinic fired up. Clinic over, we load up the bus with the equipment and head back to the hotel for a late dinner for around 25 people in the courtyard.
Tomorrow is when we head home until next time for the sequel later in the year.
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